AuthorCharlotte Self

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

This book features a person who works in a bookstore having to deal with the ghost of an annoying former customer who was haunting the store. Anyone who has worked with the public can identify with such a scenario, imagining someone so troublesome that even death would not stop them. And it’s true that when Flora comes to the store, she knocks over stacks of books, rustles around, and even...

The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain

I came upon this book in a list of comfort reads in A Life in Books and have been completely charmed by it. First published in 2013 in France, it is set in the mid-1980s and begins with the President of France François Mitterrand leaving his hat in a restaurant. It is picked up by a young bureaucrat thrilled to be dining next to the President; he is unable to resist stealing the hat. Daniel...

Still Life by Sarah Winman

It was Ron Charles’ review in the Washington Post that took me to this audiobook. And what a treat it was; I spent 15 hours with these lovely characters, most of the time in Florence. Such a comfort. It begins during World War II when a young British soldier named Ulysses meets a 64-year old woman named Evelyn Skinner in Italy as she was working on identifying and protecting art works...

Favorite Books for 2021

This year I read 43 books, fewer than usual. Though I recovered quickly from cataract surgery, I wasn’t comfortable reading for a month. I read 16 non-fiction books; perhaps the higher percentage of non-fiction this year and last will continue. Intimations by Zadie Smith. The author wrote this short book of essays in May 2020 and noted that many books would be written about the pandemic. In...

Matrix by Lauren Groff

I expected that a book set in 1158 which begins with the main character Marie on her way to the abbey where she has been sent by Eleanor of Aquitaine was going to be hard-going. And to be sure there were countless words I had to look up, but it was certainly worth the effort. The story was of an undervalued woman sent to an impoverished nunnery who overcomes many obstacles and brings wealth and...

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

This is my favorite of the three books she has written. Like Normal People, this one is a close examination of the interactions of people who in most cases have known each other a long time. The principal characters here are Alice, a 30-something writer who has had great success with her two books; Eileen, Alice’s long-time friend, barely makes enough money to live on editing for a literary...

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Some years ago I wrote about three of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series. This fall I’ve listened to three or four more of them, and though I enjoyed them, I wasn’t inclined to write about them. Then, having run through most of the library’s Elly Griffith books, I listened to this one. It begins with part of a Gothic short story, “The Stranger,” ostensibly...

Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart

Having loved some of his previous books, especially Super Sad True Love Story, I was eager to read this one that is set in early pandemic times. After I finished it, I read what I’d written about his other books and the terms  “over the top” and “exhausting” come up. So you can assume those are the starting point here. An expat Russian couple (he’s a writer)...

After by Bruce Greyson

Bruce Greyson, a professor emeritus for psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at UVa,  has been studying near death experiences for much of his career. He begins this book by recounting an experience in the ER with a student who had attempted to commit suicide. She was unconscious when he examined her; the next day, she told him about their meeting, including a detail about a spaghetti stain on...

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach

I’ve appreciated this diverting book about unfortunate interactions between wildlife of all sorts and humans. The phenomenon is increasingly problematic as human habitation grows and overwhelms wildlife habitation. Bears in the mountains of Colorado have more interactions with the humans who also love places such as Aspen. Those tasked with keeping them apart and safe have quite a challenge...

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